Survey: A Good Salesperson Is Hard to Find

It seems like all employers wanted for Christmas this year was capable salespeople, according to a new survey from Impartner, a provider of partner relationship management software.

Nine out of ten hiring managers find it difficult to fill sales roles, the survey says, with more than half (57%) reporting that the problem has gotten worse over the past year and a half. It’s a major issue for the bottom line – nearly three-quarters of respondents say hiring challenges directly prevent companies from reaching revenue goals.

The biggest reason for this hiring difficulty is a lack of candidates with relevant experience, according to 46% of respondents. Other reasons include a shortage of candidates who understand the company’s solutions (22%), high compensation requirements for qualified candidates (16%) and increased hiring competition from peer organizations (16%). 

“It certainly does seem like it’s been much harder to fill sales roles than in the past,” says Justin MacDonald, general manager of TJM Promos (asi/342485). “It’s an exhausting and sometimes overwhelming task, so I can understand why some companies might reach out to recruiters or staffing agencies.”

MacDonald says TJM Promos did three rounds of hiring salespeople in 2017. The staff pored over more than 500 resumes, narrowing those down to around 100 phone interviews. Of those candidates, more than 30 were brought in for in-person interviews. (More than a third of those were no-call, no-shows.) Six were hired, two of which remain, and two more have recently been brought on board. 

“We offer very competitive pay for the area and a great company culture, so I’m not sure why we have such a hard time filling the roles,” MacDonald says. “We’ve recently made the switch to advertising for call center employees. We’re not a call center by any means, but we seem to be having a good response to it. People with call center experience tend to have no issue talking with customers and find that selling promotional products is very easy in comparison to most of the experience they have had with other companies.” 

Elsewhere, Gregg Emmer, VP and CMO of Top 40 distributor Kaeser & Blair (asi/238600), says his company had a fine year recruiting talent. In addition to consistent ads in industry publications, online publications and outbound email campaigns, Emmer attributes his efficient hiring process to K&B’s overall structure. “Our dealers hire us to provide those services to their business. Basically, we work for them,” Emmer says. “We provide front and back office support, financing of orders, instant access to profits on booked orders and we have no claims on the accounts.”

Nonetheless, whether due to a shallow talent pool, lack of advertising or inferior compensation, companies are struggling overall to fill their sales roles. If they want to survive – even thrive – over the next 12 months, business leaders need to make hiring their number-one priority in 2018.